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Academic Senate Newsletter - June 2021
June 22, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Summer is upon us and the COVID-19 situation has improved significantly. Case rates in San Diego are as low as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic, and the local vaccination rates are as good as anywhere in the country. At the last Representative Assembly meeting, the Chancellor reported that 80% of UCSD has been vaccinated, which includes undergraduates in on-campus housing. The University of California is currently considering a vaccine mandate for the Fall. The Senate is strongly in support of this, and, indeed, pressed UC President Drake to strengthen the requirements and move the roll-out date to earlier in the Summer. There are still questions as to how the mandate will be implemented and enforced, but my understanding is that the UC Office of the President has convened a workgroup to consider those issues.

The Senate worked with the Administration to create a plan for Fall instruction with the expectation that we will be able to offer predominantly in-person teaching at or near full capacity. This was discussed in the last Senate newsletter of March 1st. While whatever we do in the Fall will be subject to state, county, and CDC guidelines, the current local trajectory of the pandemic and vaccine rollout, UCSD’s epidemiological models, and the recently announced relaxing of restrictions in California all give us confidence that in-person Fall teaching will be possible and safe. However, it is likely that there will be a residual need for remote instruction, both to accommodate the circumstances of individual instructors and students who are unable to return to campus, and so at its March meeting the Educational Policy Committee approved a blanket exception to the remote instruction policy which allows both graduate and undergraduate courses to be taught remotely in the Fall, but made this policy effective July 1, 2021. This allowed the Administration to schedule all classes as in-person, but gives instructors the assurance that should the need arise, they can pivot to remote instruction closer to the Fall.

The Senate and the Administration recognize that teaching a class both remotely and in-person is essentially twice the work of doing either, and there is no expectation that instructors will have to do this. We are hoping that visa and travel restrictions will have eased by the fall, but remote versions of large-enrollment gateway classes will be offered as needed in order to accommodate students stranded out of country. As we recommended for last Fall, it is good practice to make course materials available online for asynchronous study, but this will be the decision of the individual instructor. The Systemwide Senate generated Systemwide Guidelines and Recommendations for Campus Re-Opening and these have been endorsed by the Office of the President.

Although not the purview of the Senate, I will note that the residency provision of APM 730-0 (a), under which academic-year personnel are expected to be in residence from the beginning of Fall through the end of Spring, will again be in effect starting in Fall 2021.

I am sure you are aware that the announcement of new rates for on-campus graduate housing caught us all by surprise in early March. Senate Leadership and Senate Council were vocal in representing the concerns of the faculty, resulting in some changes to the original plan. The failure to engage the Senate on this issue ahead of time was not only an affront to shared governance, but no doubt exacerbated the widespread push-back from faculty. The Senate continues to engage with the Administration on this issue, and in particular we are advocating for much broader Senate input into this, and other campus policies going forward. A concerned group of faculty presented three resolutions on this issue to Representative Assembly, which passed overwhelmingly.

Deficiencies in the rollout of the Financial Information Systems continued to dog the campus last quarter, and the Senate hosted yet another town hall on this issue on March 22nd, attended by over 600 faculty and staff. You can find a link to the recording and answered questions on the Academic Senate’s website. The Administration promised an April 15th roll out of a MyFunds look-alike to address concerns about access to financial reports, and met this goal with a product that goes a long way to addressing faculty’s needs. This portal will be expanded very soon to include non-sponsored funds such as startup, etc. There was broad Senate concern that the Student Information Systems upgrades were heading for similar problems, and we were pleased to see that the Administration pivoted to a more measured approach in implementing a new system for this.

Both the Senate and the Office of the President are committed to supporting open access publication of UC’s scholarly works, and over the last few years have negotiated open access agreements with several publishers, including Springer Nature and Elsevier, that significantly reduce article processing charges (APCs) for open access publication. I recently heard that many of our faculty are not taking advantage of these deals, which is unfortunate for a number of reasons. Apart from the many benefits that open access bestows on society and authors, in many cases UC is paying publishers minimum subscriptions to cover open access charges for UC publications, whether or not authors take advantage of the deals. More information can be found on the UC Office of Scholarly Communication Publishing Discounts webpage.

It was clear early in the COVID-19 pandemic that many faculty, especially those with caregiving responsibilities, would have their research output compromised and teaching and service impacted by being forced to work remotely. The Executive Vice Chancellor and I convened a Senate-Administration Workgroup on Academic Advancement in the Wake of COVID-19 to examine this issue and make recommendations to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on career advancement. I want to thank Professor Susan Narucki, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Robert Continetti, and the workgroup for delivering an excellent report on time. The report, which will be formally reviewed by the Senate, is available now on the Senate’s website, under Issues Under Review. I note that the Systemwide Senate has convened a similar workgroup jointly chaired by UCSD Professor and UC Systemwide Senate Vice Chair Robert Horwitz and UCD Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan.

Finally, it is my pleasure to welcome Professor Nancy Postero as Vice-Chair elect of the UCSD Divisional Senate, and to congratulate Vice Chair Tara Javidi on being given the Award for Mid-Career Leadership in the Academic Senate, a systemwide accolade of great significance.

Steven Constable
Academic Senate, San Diego Division